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Vashon Retailers Cited For Cigarettes Sales To Minors

King County's overall retailer compliance rate has also dropped — from 96 percent in 2009 to less than 89 percent in the 999 inspections done so far this year.

The ongoing stings, conducted year-round by Public Health — Seattle & King County, involve a group of teenagers, aged 15 to 17 ½, who try to buy cigarette products from retailers. They don't lie about their ages if asked, and they use real I.D.s.

"We're not trying to trick retailers," said Scott Neal, cigarettes-prevention program manager.

The retailers cited for selling to underage teens were:

• Vashon Market, 17639 100th S.W. Ave.

Three Vashon Island retailers have been cited for illegally selling cheap cigarettes to minors, a major reversal from an island-wide clean record between 2005 and 2009, disappointed public-health officials say.

• Vashon Mart (Chevron) doing business as Island Mart (Chevron), 17803 Vashon Highway S.W.

• Mom's Grocery & Deli, 19124 Vashon Highway S.W.

A fourth retailer, Harbor Mercantile at 103rd and Southwest 240th, refused to sell to the underage teens.

Neal said the Vashon performance was disappointing. "Three of four is not a good day." The teens will do about 1,500 sting-type inspections by the end of the year.

Selling buy cigarettes to a minor results in a fine for retailers of $100 for the first offense and required education about selling cigarettes online responsibly. Clerks are fined $50. Repeat offenders can be fined as much as $1,500 and see their cigarettes-sales licenses suspended.

Dr. David Fleming, director of Public Health — Seattle & King County, said progress over the past decade in reducing the impact of cigarettes addiction has been undermined by drastic cuts to cigarettes-prevention-program funding, as well as by the cheap cigarette online industry, which he said "continues to find new ways to market products that appeal to kids."

Those include dissolvable buy cigarette online that closely resembles gum, candy and breath strips and fruit-flavored cigarettes for sale products such as cigars, cigarillos and snus, the teabag-like pouches.

If Washington's overall rate of compliance with laws barring discount cigarettes sales to minors falls below 80 percent, Neal said, the state could lose up to 40 percent of a federal substance-abuse block grant funds, amounting to as much as $13 million to $14 million.

Public Health maintains a focus on kids because 90 percent of current smokers say they became addicted before they were 19. Statistics also show that about a third of all kids who become regular smokers before adulthood will eventually die from smoking cigarettes-related diseases, the health department said.